Leadership Development World Communion Scholarship Program
By Michelle Maldonado*
The World Communion Scholarship Program supports United Methodist students—and other scholars directly related to Global Ministries mission partners—in pursuit of masters or doctoral studies at universities or seminaries. The program supports students from outside the United States (World Communion International Scholarship) or from communities of color within the United States (World Communion National Scholarship). Candidates are expected to return five years of service to their churches or communities after graduation.
The following three profiles of current World Communion Scholars witness to their strong calling and dedication to ministry. They acknowledge how others have accompanied them on their life’s journeys, and how they, in turn, seek to accompany others.
SERVING GOD BY SERVING GOD’S PEOPLE
Kenia Guimaraes, a Brazilian Methodist “PK” (Pastor’s Kid) from Rio de Janeiro, grew up serving the church from an early age. Her passion for helping others grew into a career path she is strengthening by pursuing a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree at the French School of Public Health (EHESP) in Paris, France. She is currently an intern with Fiocruz, one of the world’s main public health research institutes, in Rio de Janeiro.
Guimaraes served as an interpreter for missionary groups and volunteered with street children in some of the favelas, or slums, of Rio. Following in her parents’ footsteps, Guimaraes committed to a career path that included social justice and human rights.
Kenia Guimaraes, a Brazilian Methodist from Rio de Janeiro, takes part in a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Paris, France. She is a World Communion Scholar working toward a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree at the French School of Public Health (EHESP). PHOTO: COURTESY KENIA GUIMARAES
“I moved from Brazil to the United States to attend college and graduate school,” said Guimaraes. “I attended Rust College for undergraduate work and Clark Atlanta University for graduate school, both United Methodist schools.”
World Communion Scholar Kenia Guimaraes attends a humanitarian conference in Berlin in October 2015. She is pursuing a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree at the French School of Public Health(EHESP) in Paris, France. PHOTO: COURTESY KENIA GUIMARAES
For Guimaraes, being Methodist means practicing Wesleyan traditions and embracing the world as her parish. She got involved in numerous United Methodist organizations throughout her time in the United States, including the United Methodist Student Movement (UMSM) through the General Board of Higher Education (GBHEM); Global Justice Volunteers with the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM); the Young Adult Internship Program at General Board of Church and Society (GBCS); and the Black College Fund Ambassadors. “I was also part of a United Methodist Women’s College and University Consultative group,” Guirmaraes added.
Public health, as Guimaraes explains it, is the science that studies and analyzes the population’s health, prevents disease, works to improve quality of life, and promotes healthy living. Guimaraes’ work concentrates on global and maternal and child health. She is currently in the process of writing her master’s thesis and is conducting research on migration and health.
As she advances in her studies, Guimaraes hopes to collaborate with organizations to advocate and improve the overall quality of health and education for all people, especially in developing countries, where mortality rates are high and life expectancy is low.
“People are escaping wars, terrorism, natural disasters, and famine. When their health systems collapse, they turn to organization such as Action Against Hunger, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the World Health Organization (WHO), Oxfam, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), Doctors without Borders, and many others,” said Guimaraes.
Working with immigrants and refugees, especially women and children, is one of her many passions.
“I have been an immigrant in countries that I’ve lived in, traveled to, and worked in,” said Guimaraes. “Because of current global humanitarian crises, the number of immigrants and refugees continues to grow. Women and children, especially, encounter violence along the way.”
Guimaraes says she is thankful for the scholarships Global Ministries has awarded her.
For Guimaraes, public health is more than a career path, it’s a calling.
“My faith shaped me to become who I am today, leading me to understand the calling to serve God by serving God’s people, embracing the need to transform my faith into action,” concluded Guimaraes.
Ayra Indrias was born in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, to a humble family. She is currently a Ph.D. student in Gender Studies at Punjab University in Lahore, Pakistan.
“When I was in seventh or eighth grade, I used to question why I, along with my brown skinned friends, was never selected to perform in our Christmas plays,” said Indrias.
According to Indrias, her teacher said that fair-skinned students were given preference for the roles “in order to make the show beautiful.”
“This argument never sat well with me,” admitted Indrias. “I felt it was insulting and I used to cry and ask my mother to insist on a role for me.”
When Indrias was in ninth grade, her mother died of cancer. “My siblings and I began to see more of our father’s conservative mindset,” Indrias noted. This only strengthened her resolve to confront his ideology. As she grew, Indrias could see, beyond the eyes of a child, the injustices women endured.
“In my own family I felt uncomfortable, and I think that unrest urged me to speak out against a patriarchal ideology that sees women only as daughters, mothers, and wives,” she said.
Indrias’ father wanted her to become a teacher at an all-women’s school. Although she and her father didn’t see eye to eye politically, she is thankful that he helped her and her siblings through school, paying their college fees and taking care of the household expenses.
Before enrolling as a Ph.D. student, Indrias completed two masters’ degrees in International Relations and Public Policy and Governance. Prior to her masters, she studied Applied Psychology and Mathematics. She later decided to switch to an education track to increase her chances of finding a job, becoming financially independent, and having a life of her own.
Indrias works with the Lahore Diocese Church of Pakistan teaching Women’s Studies and Peace Building at Lahore’s oldest women’s college, Kinnaird College for Women. She serves as a board member for the Christian Study Center in Rawalpindi and contributes to its theological journal. She noted: “This center provides an intellectual space to deliberate and discuss the challenges and constraints that Christians, as a religious minority within their communities, are facing. It promotes peaceful coexistence among communities.”
In addition to her work with religious minorities, Indrias raises funds for women’s welfare development projects. “I strongly believe in gender equality and I express this through participation in women’s movements in Pakistan to transform legislation, cultural norms, and traditions that sanction oppression against women,” said Indrias.
Ayra Indrias from Rawalpindi,Pakistan, currently a Ph.D. student in Gender Studies at Punjab University in Lahore, Pakistan, gives a workshop on International Women’s Day, March 2017. PHOTO: COURTESY AYRA INDRIAS
“I raise funds for women’s welfare projects and that made me quite acceptable to the church institution,” said Indrias. “However, the hierarchal and patriarchal order of church-run institutions depress me at times.” Yet, Indrias reminds herself that some church-run institutes and organizations, like United Methodist Women, help to develop and fulfill her objective of improving the status and role of women in Pakistan.
While her three siblings all married and had children, Indrias remained single, “which further disturbs acquaintances,” she admitted. “I myself witnessed and suffered the repercussions of questioning the status quo of a patriarchal social environment that allows little space for women to have a life of their own. I have seen how women are treated as second class citizens. I believe in constructing a society where gender is not an excuse to keep people from exercising their due rights on planet earth.”
Indrias strongly believes that economic independence is one of the most important steps to empower women. She has been working in various skill-training projects that help women learn how to generate their own income, elevate their status, and strengthen their position in society.
MY LIFE IS A MIRACLE AND TESTIMONY
Julieth Gudo is a Ph.D. student in Commercial Law and research assistant at the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa. The hardships she experienced and endured throughout her life motivated her to pursue higher education to fight government corruption, empower nonprofit organizations, and encourage other young people who share her experiences.
Originally from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, Gudo lost both her parents when she was only seven. She moved in with relatives, but they gave up on her by the time she reached 12. Because she had no money to pay school fees, Gudo dropped out. She searched for work, but no one would employ her.
“I remember my life changing from a good life to the most painful life,” explained Gudo.
At 12, Gudo decided to cross the border from Zimbabwe to South Africa in search of a better life and a more promising future. While trying to cross the border illegally, she was robbed and assaulted.
Upon reaching South Africa, Gudo was welcomed by an orphanage founded by the Uniting Reformed Church in South Africa. Even with few resources, the denomination opened the orphanage because an increasing number of unaccompanied children were roaming the streets looking for food and shelter.
Years later, with the assistance of several nonprofit organizations, Gudo enrolled in a local high school.
“As a foreign child and a refugee, it was very difficult to enroll because of my lack of papers,” said Gudo. Ultimately, she succeeded and resumed her education.
After completing high school, Save the Children UK (SCUK) paid Gudo’s registration fees for a local university. With SCUK’s financial aid and her earnings from student jobs at the university, Gudo paid for her first two years of college. In her third year, Gudo applied for a United Methodist scholarship. “Receiving that scholarship was the best miracle that happened in my life,” said Gudo. “I still clearly remember the day I received the letter. I did not sleep that night with joy. My life changed that day. I thank God for this blessing.”
Julieth Gudo, a World Communion Scholar from Zimbabwe, is a Ph.D. student in Commercial Law and research assistant at the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa. PHOTO: COURTESY JULIETH GUDO
Gudo went on to complete a Bachelor of Laws Degree and a Master in Commercial Law. She is currently enrolled as a Ph.D. student in Commercial Law with a focus in the role of law and nonprofit organizations in the governance of government-owned enterprises.
Gudo explained that her degree’s focus “critically explains the relationship between civil society organizations and the government.”
While growing up in the orphanage in South Africa, Gudo began realizing that many other citizens of Zimbabwe had left the country because of a poor performing government.
“I also realized that the people of Zimbabwe had lost hope in their own country,” said Gudo. “I concluded that perhaps it was time for nonprofits to challenge the government as representatives of the people.”
To this day, Gudo gives back to her orphanage and community by volunteering with children and teaching them about the law and their rights.
“When I decided to go to South Africa from Zimbabwe as a last resort, without proper documents, the challenges I met on the way made me realize just how God can be so kind in our lives,” said Gudo. “I think my life is a miracle, a testimony that, if shared with young people in the same situation, could change their lives forever.”
Gudo would like to start an organization made up of young people who have, like her, overcome some of the worst challenges imaginable. “Together we will go into children’s homes, refugee centers, and poor rural areas to talk with orphaned children and other young people about life in general and how to deal with challenges,” said Gudo. “They need people who understand what it is like to live in an orphanage, to be a refugee, or to come from a very disadvantaged background. I want them to know that they are not defined by their current situations or their backgrounds. They are individuals who can achieve anything and break through barriers.”
Michelle Maldonado. PHOTO: COURTESY MICHELLE MALDONADO
*Michelle Maldonado, a native of the Florida Annual Conference, is a World Communion National Scholar dedicated to the work of church communications as a means of outreach to Hispanic/Latino millennials and other young people. She plans to attend Drew University to study for a D.Min. degree.
Copyright New World Outlook magazine, Summer 2017 issue. Used by permission. Email the New World Outlook editor for more information.
World Communion Scholarships can be supported through the Advance, project #982161.